Archive

Large scale document archive

MT's official files as Prime Minister, 1979-90

MT's official files as PM can be read on this site as they are released, in full and free to all - the confidential files originally stored at No.10, the core record of her premiership.

This is the first time in Britain - in fact as far as we can tell, in any country - that the declassified archive of a head of government has ever been published in full, paper or online.

The files have been copied at the British National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London and can be downloaded precisely as they appear in the reading room.

We are doing something more to help people make sense of this mass of information. The files are subject-based, logically enough, but that system makes it difficult to reconstruct the flow of paper across the Prime Minister’s desk at any point in time, depriving us of a sense of context and cross-winds, some of them overwhelming.

To combat this effect we are uploading a large selection of the most important documents from these files – thousands in total - to our powerful site database. You can search and sort by date, subject and other parameters, getting as close as anyone can now get to reconstructing the Prime Minister’s daily "Red Boxes", the rich diet of foreign and domestic policy papers submitted to her by the No.10 Private Office.

list & links to the files

Secret no more

 

Below are links to the downloadable files in numerical order. The subject terms are those used in the original filing system. Files held back from release are listed in red.

An average file has around 200 pages.

You can read here an account of how filing worked at No.10, and the system for archiving MT's Prime Ministerial papers, both of which had their quirks.

Some of these downloads are very big, as large as 75MB, though most are in the range 1-10MB. To keep sizes down, images have been compressed, though legibility should never be a problem. High quality copies can also be supplied, where a need is established, on application to the site editor.

Where documents within a file have been selected for the site database, they can easily be viewed by clicking the link after the file name ("Selected PREM19/959"), as well as via conventional searches from the archive search screen. Over time most files will have had documents selected in this way, but it will take time and care is being taken not to allow the site database to become so large as to be unmanageable.

You can sort each column by clicking on its title in bold at the top, a powerful tool to find all the files on a particular subject over several years.

You can also search the list from the box on the right. The term "Public Spending", for example, will produce all the parts of the main file on that topic.

engagement diaries

An alternative way through the material is to read MT's engagement diaries, jumping day to day.

The engagement diaries link directly to relevant documents in the site database, so this is a good way to recover the perspective from the Red Box.

 

Link to full file File name Begins Ends Date of release Any docs withheld?sort ascending File classification Pages Link to selections
PREM19/661 Arts and amenities (Royal Opera House development appeal; Prime Minister’s meeting with Lord Drogheda and Sir Claus Moser) 1980 Feb 18 1982 Aug 9 2012 Dec 28 3 Confidential 127
PREM19/917 Security (Security at GCHQ: representations from Nicholas Edwards MP; untimely deaths of two GCHQ employees (Jack Wolfenden in an aircraft accident) and Ernest Peter Brockway (suspected suicide); question of a 'radio ham' who lived for 11 years with a translator at GCHQ) 1982 Nov 23 1982 Dec 24 2012 Dec 28 3 Secret 16
PREM19/581 Royal family (Visits to Northern Ireland by Princess Alexandra, June 1979 and June 1981) 1979 May 14 1981 May 29 2011 Dec 30 3 Secret 9
PREM19/1969 South Africa (Internal situation) (Part 12) 1986 Jul 16 1986 Jul 31 2016 Feb 19 3
PREM19/9 Commonwealth (Lusaka Heads of Government Meeting) (CHOGM) (Part 1) 1979 May 18 1979 Jul 31 2009 Dec 30 3 Secret 201
PREM19/551 Nepal (Visits to UK by King Birendra of Nepal, September 1979 and November 1980: calls on the Prime Minister) 1979 Aug 15 1981 Apr 24 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 141
PREM19/1064 Industrial policy (Companies Bill; purchase by a company of its own shares; wider share ownership) 1979 Oct 18 1983 May 26 2013 Aug 1 3 Confidential 176
PREM19/1442 Defence (Arms control) (Part 6A) 1985 Mar 8 1985 Jul 29 2014 Dec 30 3 Secret 231
PREM19/1112 Prime Minister (Prime Minister's visit to Falklands, Jan 1983) (Part 1) 1982 Aug 10 1983 Jan 12 2013 Aug 1 3 Top Secret 197
PREM19/2446 Prime Minister's Tours Abroad (Prime Minister's visit to France and Germany, March 1987: administrative arrangements) 1987 Mar 5 1987 Mar 25 2016 Nov 7 3
PREM19/1332 Nationalised industries (Coal mines) (Part 11) 1984 Jul 19 1984 Aug 31 2014 Jan 3 3 Secret 304
PREM19/2431 Prime Minister's Gifts (Copies of invoices received for payment for gifts purchased for presentation to overseas visitors: general correspondence on gifts) (Part 3) 1984 Sep 3 1986 Sep 5 2016 Jul 21 3
PREM19/76 Iran (Internal situation, including hostage crisis) (Part 1) 1979 May 10 1979 Dec 10 2009 Dec 30 3 Secret 268
PREM19/1976 Spain (Internal situation; UK/Spain relations) (Part 1) 1980 Mar 10 1986 Feb 21 2016 Jul 21 3
PREM19/467 Foreign policy (Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia & the Gulf States, April 1981) (Part 1) 1981 Feb 8 1981 Apr 13 2011 Dec 30 3 Confidential 201

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